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back to index A Brief Ethnography of Magnolia Plantation: Planning for Cane River Creole National Historical Park

A Selected Bibliography on Historic Magnolia Plantation and its Environs

Compiled by Susan Dollar
Northwestern State University

Babb, Arthur. My Sketchbook, 1926-27. Edited by Neill Cameron. Natchitoches: Northwestern State University Press, 1996.

A charming visitor’s journal, this source is full of descriptions of Natchitoches in the twenties. See, especially, pp. 79-90 (a tour of the Cane River area and Melrose with photographs) and pp. 93-101 (another trip down the river, Isle Brevelle, and Magnolia with photographs). This book’s photographs and text can be very helpful with the interpretation of Magnolia, as well as the greater heritage area. This source is a very important one to read.

Biographical and Historical Memoirs of Northwest Louisiana. Nashville: The Southern Publishing Co., 1890. Reproduced in 1976 by Walsworth Publishing Co.

This volume provides detailed, though dated, information on the parish as a whole. Pre-Civil War information is provided on the largest slave holders and landowners in the parish, as well as general information on early businesses in the parish, descriptions of early towns, and biographical information on early leaders. Strangely, information on the Hertzogs is absent. Interesting information on the Henry family of Derry and Melrose is provided.

Cane River Country Louisiana. Natchitoches: Northwestern State University Press, 1979.

This is a coffee-table collection of historical and modern photographs of Natchitoches and its environs, along with selected related historical documents from the Cammie Henry Research Center. Many of these photographs would be helpful in interpretation at Magnolia. See, in particular, p. 117, photos of the slave quarters at Magnolia; pp. 110-111, photos of tools made and used by slaves at Oakland Plantation; p. 90, a photograph of a church on Magnolia Plantation pp. 54-55, photos of the days of building the railroad in the vicinity of Chopin; pp. 40-41, photos of a baptism on Cane River and of one of the early Black churches in the area [unidentified]; and p. 30, a photo of the steamboat Scovell at 24-Mile Landing on the Cohen place. An excellent source on scenes of early Natchitoches.

Corley, D.B. A Visit to Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Chicago: Laird & Lee Publishers, 1893.

This small work gives a brief overview of Natchitoches circa 1890. It gives some background to the legend that the character Simon Legree in Harriet Beecher Stowe’s work Uncle Tom’s Cabin was based on Robert McAlpin, the owner of a plantation near Derry in the 1850s. Lamy Chopin later bought the McAlpin plantation. There is some interesting interview material here, but nothing specifically on Magnolia Plantation.

Davis, Edwin A. Louisiana: A Narrative History. Baton Rouge: Claitor’s Publishing, 1971.

This book is a foremost work on the history of the state. It gives a good, basic overview of the colonial twists and turns of Louisiana’s history. Perhaps a bit dated, but still an important work.

DeBlieux Collection. Cammie Henry Research Center. Eugene P. Watson Memorial Library. Northwestern State University of Louisiana. Natchitoches, LA.

Folder #573 contains a portfolio of Magnolia photographs, along with a history of the ownership of the property.

Dollar, Susan E. The Freedman’s Bureau Schools of Natchitoches Parish, 1865-1868. Master’s thesis, Northwestern State University of Louisiana, 1994.

Although no specific information about Magnolia appears in this work, there is some information on Hypolite Hertzog of Melrose Plantation and detailed descriptions of the economic situation in Natchitoches Parish in the four years immediately following the Civil War. This work also gives insight into the contract labor system in the parish just after the war, as well as descriptions of freedman life in the parish during that time.

Eakin, Sue. Louisiana Plantations.

Focusing on a number of plantations in the state, this small work documents buildings and other aspects of the Louisiana plantation system through photographs. It appears to me that the section on Magnolia relies heavily on the Hertzog family photographs, showing workers in the field, loading hay, etc.

Federal Writers Project Collection. Cammie Henry Research Center. Eugene P. Watson Memorial Library. Northwestern State University of Louisiana. Natchitoches, LA.

Although the material in this collection is wide ranging and covers much of the state of Louisiana, several specific documents pertain to Natchitoches Parish and the plantation system there. Folders #63 (Magnolia), #123 (Cane River Superstitions), and #126 (Free Mulattos on Cane River; Architecture on Red River; Coffee Time) are sources of information which may be useful to the interpretation of the area.

Gilley, B.H., ed. North Louisiana, Volume One: To 1865, Essays on the Region and Its History. Ruston, LA: McGinty Trust Fund Publications, 1984.

This collection of essays is very informative on north Louisiana. Of particular interest are the following: “Liberté, Fraternité, and Everything But Egalité: Cane River’s Citizens de Couleur,” by Gary Mills, which focuses on the Metoyer descendants of Marie Thérèze Coin-Coin; “The Great Raft of the Red River,” by Hubert Davis Humphreys, which describes in detail the meanderings of the river and river travel in the days that the river was blocked by logs near Natchitoches; and “Secession and Civil War in North Louisiana,” by John D. Winters, giving a brief overview of that time in north Louisiana. Although the information here is not specifically on Magnolia Plantation, it does cover events and situations which affected the plantation and life there.

Gregory, H.F., H.K. Curry, and J.L. McCorkle, Jr. Natchitoches Parish: Cultural and Historical Resources. Natchitoches, LA: Natchitoches Parish Planning Commission, 1979.

This source summarizes and synthesizes the cultural data for groups in the parish. Studies previous to this work are reviewed and significant contributors to parish archaeology are cited. Completed for the “purpose of evaluation of sites for National Registry Eligibility,” this work gives a good overview and description of historical Indian communities in the parish with site descriptions of known archaeological sites. It also provides an overview of the economic development of colonial Natchitoches, describing French/Spanish/Indian relations from the beginning. It provides a good overview of the lay of the land, goods traded in the area, the great raft on Red River, and the beginnings of the plantation system in the area.

Hardin, J. Fair. Northwestern Louisiana: A History of the Watershed of the Red River, 1714-1937. 3 vols. Shreveport: The Historical Record Association, n.d.

Volume I is a good source for Natchitoches Parish history with information on trails, roads, steam boating, railroads, and the log raft on the river. See p. 496 for information on Ambrose Lecomte’s race track in town. Volume I also includes the diary of William S. Toumey, a Natchitoches lawyer from 1836 to 1842, who was a friend and contemporary of Matthew Hertzog, ancestor of the Matthew Hertzog of the early 1900s. In addition to this diary, it also contains J.W. Dorr’s observations of the town when he visited Natchitoches in 1860 by steamboat from Alexandria. Both of these entries provide interesting data from the 1800s as to the life of the town itself. In Volume III, there is biographical information about Mrs. Ambrose John Hertzog, grandmother to the present Ambrose Hertzog, along with a basic description of the plantation as it was in the late 1930s.

Kadlecek, Mabell C., and Marion C. Bullard. Louisiana’s Kisatchie Hills: History, Tradition, Folklore. Chelsea, MI: Book Crafters, 1994.

This work provides information on the fringe communities in the hills, along with interesting information on the location of stage coach routes, old trails into Spanish territory, and roads. It also includes information on old sawmills, cotton gins, and the cattle industry, as well as local lore on buried treasure, ghosts, and gangs. Mostly Anglo history.

Kerr, J.A., et al. Soil Survey of Natchitoches Parish, Louisiana. Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1925.

This work contains a detailed map of the area of the Heritage Area, showing old roads, homesites, and waterways. This is an excellent map for reference to the landscape of the past.

Louisiana’s Architectural and Archeological Legacies. Natchitoches, LA: Northwestern State University Press, 1982.

On page 110 of this work, there is a sketch of one of the slave quarters and a photograph of the main house at Magnolia Plantation. These are accompanied by a brief narrative description of the plantation. Nothing new here except the sketch.

Maes, Pierre F. Land Plats of Natchitoches and Its Environs, 1793-1801. Cammie Henry Research Center. Eugene P. Watson Memorial Library. Northwestern State University of Louisiana. Natchitoches, LA.

These maps are some of the earliest of the area. Map #20, dated 1796, has Ambroise Leconte’s [sic] land marked; map #22, dated 1794, has the land of Francois Leconte [sic] marked. Other maps also show the lands of the LaCour family, which may be the lands which later became Ambrose Lecompte’s land, eventually to be known as Magnolia.

McCoy Collection. Cammie Henry Research Center. Eugene P. Watson Memorial Library. Northwestern State University of Louisiana. Natchitoches, LA.

This collection contains one photograph of the cotton press at Magnolia.

Melrose Collection. Cammie Henry Research Center. Eugene P. Watson Memorial Library. Northwestern State University of Louisiana. Natchitoches, LA.

This is an immense collection, which contains incredible amounts of information about innumerable events, places, and people. Here and there pieces of information about Magnolia and its environs can be found. Scrapbook #71 contains an article (The Natchitoches Times, May 12, 1933) describing the characters from the Cane River area; Aunt Harriet, who was born a slave on Magnolia, describes her memories of Mrs. Fanny Hertzog during slavery. Scrapbook #71 also contains photographs of the buildings and some of the workers at Magnolia, complete with comments made by Cammie Henry. Scrapbook #70 also has photographs: see pp. 117-18 for photos of the big house; pp. 119-20 for photos of the quarters and servant Aunt Agnes; and pp. 102-4 for photos of Mr. Matt.

Mignon, François. Plantation Memo: Plantation Life in Louisiana, 1750-1970 and Other Matter. Baton Rouge: Claitor’s Publishing, 1972.

This is a collection of Mignon’s weekly newspaper columns from over thirteen years of writing. Mignon lived at Melrose and took most of his observations from life on the Cane River. There are snippets here that give insight into daily life along the river – valuable, probably, for interpretation of Magnolia. These observations are dated, however, and reveal early, “politically incorrect” attitudes towards African Americans.

Mills, Gary B. The Forgotten People: Cane River’s Creoles of Color. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1977.

This is one of the most complete examinations of the Isle Brevelle Creoles as a distinct ethnic group and their founding as a community. It is not complete, however, and other works should be consulted. It is particularly strong on the early history of the Creole community in Natchitoches Parish.

The Natchitoches Genealogist. The Natchitoches Genealogical and Historical Association.

Various issues of this locally published journal provide details about the Lecompte and Hertzog families. See, among others, Vol. V:2 (April 1981): 19, which has information on the location of succession papers for at least eleven Hertzog family members; “Notes on Early Steamboat Navigation on Cane River, Charles Bertrand to Miss Cammie,” Vol. VI:2 (April, 1982): 29-30, which gives an account of the murder of the overseer at Magnolia; Vol. VIII:1 (October 1983), which has several references to Magnolia and to the Hertzogs see especially Mrs. Lucille Keator Prudhomme’s notes on the landholdings of the Prudhommes (p. 21 has a reference to Magnolia), and pp. 39-42, “Ferry Boat Bonds Issued in Natchitoches Parish,” showing Matthew Hertzog’s involvement with local ferries; and Vol. XVI:1 (April 1991):17-19, “Last Will and Testament of Ambrose Lecomte (1807-1883).

Saxon, Lyle. ”Cane River.” In Louisiana Stories, edited by Ben Forkner, pp. 205-218. Gretna, LA: Pelican Publishing Co., 1990.

Written by an author who lived on Melrose Plantation for many years, this short story is about a young black woman who works on a plantation in the early 1900s. The story itself is fiction, however, its view into relationships among workers on a plantation in Louisiana is insightful and informative.

-----. Children of Strangers. Atlanta: Mockingbird Press, 1986.

First published in 1937, this work is based on Cane River and sheds insight into the Creole community there. Although it is fiction, I have been told that it is truer than most people think. In fact, it appears that many, if not most, of the elements of the story are true. This small work gives clear insight into the curiosities of the Creole community, their lives on the river, and their relationships with each other and with the whites and blacks of the area.

Seebold, Herman de Bachelle. Old Louisiana Plantation Homes and Family Trees. 2 vols. New Orleans: Pelican Press, 1941.

In volume I of this work, there appears a brief description of Magnolia Plantation as it was in the late 1930s.

Seyersted, Per, ed. The Complete Works of Kate Chopin. 2 vols. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1969.

This is a collection of the works of Kate Chopin, who lived in Cloutierville between 1879 and 1884 and based many of her works on the people from the Cane River area. An early regional writer and local colorist, Chopin gives detailed descriptions of life on the river, as well as of the people from the area. Specific works to examine include “In and Out of Old Natchitoches,” “For Marse Chouchoute” (description of a house party), “Love on the Bon Dieu” (description of Easter egg knocking), “Loka” (description of the hanging cradles traditionally used in the Cane River area ), “Ma’am Pélagie” (the setting of this story sounds strangely like Magnolia), “Mamouche” (takes place between the 24-Mile Ferry and Cloutierville), and her first novel, At Fault (which is set on the Chopin plantation). Although fiction, Chopin’s work can provide insight which one will not find in a historical document or statistical work. These should be consulted for information.

Shugg, Roger W. Origins of Class Struggle in Louisiana: A Social History of White Farmers and Laborers during Slavery and After, 1840-1875. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1939.

This is the most complete statistical study of the Louisiana plantation system, both pre- and post-civil war, that I am aware of. It provides information on the following: characteristics of the classes; social conditions in the Old Regime; free labor and slavery; government by gentlemen; secession and war; class and race strife; survival of the plantation; rise of the poor whites; and statistics on the agrarian pattern, 1860-1880, within the state of Louisiana. Natchitoches Parish is represented in these statistical breakdowns.

Stallings, Evelyn Tudor. “Hapless Harlequin: Joseph Mark Leveque, 1868-1911,” Master’s thesis, Northwestern State University of Louisiana, 1986.

This master’s thesis, although focused on J.M. Leveque, a newspaper reporter in New Orleans, gives an interesting description of life on the river after the Civil War. Leveque’s father was a practicing physician who lived at Oakland with his family. The early chapters of this work, chapters 1 and 2 especially, give insight into the economy, political antagonisms, pastimes, and the coming of the railroad in the years after the Civil War along the Cane/Red Rivers.

Walkes, Joseph A., Jr. Jno. G. Lewis, Jr. End of an Era: The History of Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Louisiana, 1842-1979. 1986.

This source, although specifically on the African-American Freemasons of Louisiana, gives some interesting information on the group which founded The Corinthian Lodge and The Dawn of Light Lodge #22 in Natchitoches. John G. Lewis, of Natchitoches but originally from Canada, was instrumental in the founding of these lodges and served as Grandmaster in Louisiana before his death. Many of the tombstones in St. Andrew’s Cemetery are decorated with Masonic symbols indicating the close ties the people of that congregation shared with the lodge once located in Derry, LA. The notes to this work provide some telling insights into Reconstruction, post-reconstruction ,and Jim-Crow realities for blacks in Louisiana, relying heavily on The Plumbline, a black Masonic monthly journal published in Natchitoches from 1910 into the 1970s.

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